> Muzio CLEMENTI - 100 Studies [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Muzio CLEMENTI (1752-1832)
100 Studies, Op. 44 - Excerpts.
Michele Campanella, Sandro de Palma, Maria Mosca, Vincenzo Vitale, Aldo Tramma, Carlo Bruno, Laura de Fusco, Franco Medori (pianos)
Recorded in Naples in 1977-1979. ADD
WARNER FONIT 8573 87495-2 [50'26]


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The thought of listening to a sequence of 23 studies by Clementi may well in theory deter all but the most dedicated pianophile. The complete 'Gradus ad Parnassum' is an extensive work, originally published in three separate volumes and composed over a huge stretch of time. The booklet notes tell the purchaser that, 'On this CD are the 23 obligatory studies ... for the intermediate piano examination in accordance with ministerial regulations. Teachers and students have at their disposal a "sound document" which is not only a pure and simple didactic reference work but also a masterly "lesson" in piano interpretation from the school of the late Maestro Vincenzo Vitale'.

Whatever the reasons for the choice of studies, the decision to split the 23 excerpts between eight pianists means that (to an extent) Warner Fonit can rise to the not insignificant challenge of injecting life into pieces that are usually banished to the practice room. It is certainly difficult to imagine anybody making space for them in a recital (even as an encore), but the good news is that they receive persuasive enough performances to justify the outlay for the disc.

The honours are not, however, equally divided between the pianists. Was it by accident or design that possibly the best-known pianist, Michele Campanella, opens the proceedings?. Whatever the case, his reputation precedes him, and one knows from his Liszt that one is in safe hands and that, technically at least, there will not be a problem (try his Complete Hungarian Rhapsodies on Philips Duo 438 371-2). To his credit he instils shape into the Study No. 2 in F, just as his pearly scales illuminate the quasi-Baroque delicacy of No. 5. His return later in the programme with No. 65 in F reminds us (briefly: it lasts 46 seconds) of his sure technical capacity for octaves.

Sandro De Palma impresses, particularly in the Study No. 14 in F, 'Tulit alter honores (Virgilio)', a cross between a Haydn keyboard sonata and the slow movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 2 No. 1 (Clementi's piece is actually a reduction of his own Op. 14 No. 1, originally for piano duet). The Haydnesque element surfaces once more in De Palma's account of the Study No. 15 in C. By respecting the 'non troppo' qualifier to the 'Allegro', De Palma successfully projects the complexity and drama of this Study (this is the most extended piece on the disc, clocking in at 6'39). The dramatic use of the bass register recalls Domenico Scarlatti's similar use of this device.

De Palma plays eight out of the 23 Studies in this selection. His version of No. 59 in B flat is indeed the Presto the composer requests, but it also a model of clarity. He also projects the jubilant aspect of No. 78 in G well.

Maria Mosca serves as a stark contrast. Two of her Studies concentrate on the equalization of five-note scalic fragments. Whatever the low-lying level of inspiration, there is no doubt that these could be more interesting: this is little better than typewriting. Her account of No. 47 in B flat sounds contrived and the accents are stabbed at. Laura De Fusco suffers from the same maladies in her accounts of No. 36 in A (which really sounds as if one is eavesdropping on someone's warm-up) and No. 44 in F minor.

Vincenzo Vitale himself plays the diverting little canon of Study No. 26 on B minor affectingly (he is almost Bachian here). He obviously relishes the more delicate studies: No. 63 in E flat is (Domenico) Scarlatti-like, and he delivers it as such.

Aldo Tramma and Carlo Bruno are allocated one study each. Tramma's Study No. 30 in E minor is accorded a more recessed recording than the rest of the disc, possibly just as well as he pounds the left hand mercilessly. Bruno gives an acceptable Study No. 32 in C (a study in fast alternating notes which are not quite fast enough to be called a trill).

The disc ends with two Studies played by Franco Medori, whose fingerwork in Study No. 95 in C (subtitled 'Bizzarria') is pearly and impressive, but whose account of No. 96 in C minor is neither the 'Allegro' nor 'agitato' of the tempo indication. A odd way to end a mixed and somewhat strange disc.

Colin Clarke

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